Victims count losses, beg Obaseki for aid
It was like a dream to the residents of Ogbe Quarters and also traders of the popular Oba Market in the ancient city of Benin, Edo State, where people woke up last Sunday morning only to discover that the market had been razed by fire and thousands of shops with goods and electrical materials worth billions of naira lost to the midnight inferno. This is about the fourth market in the state capital razed by fire within one year in Benin City.
Some of the victims who were seen crying with deep pains in their hearts told Saturday Telegraph that it would be difficult for them to bounce back to normal life because of what they lost to the fire incident. One of the traders who lost his shop to the inferno, Gerry Eboigbe, who is still struggling to come to terms with the disaster said: “I started this business at the Oba Market in 2003 with my lifesavings. You know that for over four months now we have been at home doing nothing, Edo State government gave order that we should clean up our various shops for normal business to resume.
So I came to my clean up my shops on Saturday morning, hoping to resume work on Monday. But I was shocked to hear that my shop at Favour Line and my goods worth about N10m had been burnt to dust. I lost everything in my shop including TV set, air-conditioner, future set among other valuables.” “We are just praying to God to touch the state governor and other members of the public to assist us. I do not know how to start life again; fire has consumed all I had.” Another trader who equally lost his shop Mr Clifford Igho narrates his experience.
“I have fashion shop in Eagle Line at Oba market. I came into this market in 2001. I have invested all my life earnings into this business only to lose all I had labored for to this fire which we learnt started mid night of Sunday, June 21. I lost over Six hundred thousand (N600, 000); I do not know where to begin from now, so I want the state government to come our aid; we are really in deep mess. We don’t know what has happened, we are not politicians and are yet to know the main cause of the fire.
It is only God that will fight for us, it is very evil of those that did this to us after four months of staying at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, only to return to zero business point. It is very painful; some people cannot even come to the scene to check their shops because some might not be able to stand the shock.” A widow, Kehinde Osaretin, is so distraught that she’s contemplating suicide. The mother of six told Saturday Telegraph: “I’m a tailor I have my fashion shop in this line. I’m a widow with six children.
The people that have done this wicked act will never escape the wrath of God. Right now I’m very confused. I do not know where to go to for help. I have no one to help me; I sold some of my late husband’s properties to be able to rent the shop and establish a tailoring business.
So tell me what you expect me to do, who to cry to that will feed me and six children. It is better not to be alive than living with nothing to do. Before this fire incident, my clients bring materials for me to make for them. You can see my shop burnt to ashes.
When I heard the news of the fire matter, my breath almost failed me but it is by the grace of God that am alive to talk now. I lost over N1m. I want to appeal to government to come to our help. I do not know what to do. Governor Godwin Obaseki please come to our aid before I do otherwise.” Madam Osamudiamwen on her part, said: “This is a wicked act, these people want me to die. I will not die in this matter. I did not borrow money from them to start my fashion business; I worked hard to start my business. Where do I go from here? I lost everything to this fire. How many products can I mention here, in fact I can say that over N3.5m perished in this fire disaster.” Another trader who identified herself simply as Queen Osaze, said: “I cannot just say anything; it is all over. But I thank God that I’m alive. If the fire had started during the day when everybody was in the market what do you think would have happened? But one thing I know is that those that have done this to me will not go unpunished.
I lost up to N7million because I just filled my shop before the COVID- 19 pandemic.” Another lady who didn’t give her name but who owned three shops at the market said: “I have been at Oba Market since 2012 but I started the business 12 years ago. Just take a look at my three boutiques, there is nothing left for me.
They have done well and my God will judge them. I have goods worth N11million in these three shops. This is a disaster, I’m finished. They said the governor visited this place on Monday morning; we have heard promises from governments in the past and nothing has changed.” In December 2019, there was also fire incident at another market, Ekiosa Market and victims of the fire disaster are still waiting for the fulfillment of the promise made to them but the Oba Market traders are hopeful that the state governor, Mr Obaseki, will hearken to their plea for help at this difficult time. The people are calling on the Oba of Benin His Royal Majesty Oba Ewuare II to invoke the wrath of the gods to fish out those behind the fire.
It was gathered that the chief security officer in charge of the market was not around when the fire outbreak started. Apparently, he went home to sleep and sources say he ran back to the scene after the fire had wreaked havoc. All the security people have gone into hiding, the sources also say.